We know: picking up the phone can be hard, especially compared with the “alternative” of sending a text, an email, or a postcard. The thing is, if your goal is to convert prospects into clients, none of these are actually valid options — you’ve got to get on the phone.
Why? Because establishing genuine interpersonal connection with your prospects is the absolute best way to demonstrate to them that you have their best interests at heart and are therefore offering something of value.
Nonetheless, knowing you have to get on the phone and actually doing it are two very different things. If you find yourself making excuses not to call prospects and avoiding your phonebook like your crazy uncle at the Christmas party, we’ve got your back.
Stick around for 4 specific action steps that will not only make the prospect of prospecting much less daunting, but help you convert calls more often too.
1. Assess the situation honestly
If you’re avoiding making prospecting calls like some people avoid going to the gym, there’s a reason for it. Understanding what that reason is will help you create an action plan for being able to move past it.
There are any number of reasons you might be hesitant to get on the phone with a prospect (feeling unprepared, being bored by the calls, fear of failure, etc.), but no matter what your reason is, putting the following steps into practice will help you get through it.
One way to help figure out what’s stopping you from picking up the phone is to keep a journal of the reasons you’re procrastinating. Every time you decide not to call someone, jot down your reasons in the journal. After a few days of this, you’re likely to start noticing some sort of pattern.
Once you know why you’re not calling prospects, write it down. You may even want to hang a piece of paper near your desk with some sort of relevant motivator written on it. For example, if you recognize it’s a fear of failure that’s stopping you from hopping on the phone, messaging to yourself that it’s okay to not close every prospect might help.
Sure, the “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” poster is a bit played out at this point, but there are other motivational posters that get the same message across; you could even just write “it’s okay not to close” on a piece of paper and hang that near your desk.
2. Have a clear objective in mind
Once you know what’s stopping you from making the call, it’s helpful to remind yourself why you should be doing it.
Why are you calling this prospect in the first place? Do you want them to sign up for your email newsletter? Are you hoping they’ll book a meeting with you? Are you trying to fill seats in your next seminar? If you don’t have the answer to this question at the front of your mind before you pick up the phone, chances are you’re going to spend a whole lot more time on the call than you need to.
Long, meandering conversations with no point are fine if you’re casually chatting with friends, but they’re about as good for your conversion rate as salt is for slugs; there are also a few reasons that rambling along past the point of sale could cause you to dread picking up the phone for your next call.
First, you’re not being efficient with your time. If you spend an extra 3 minutes on each call, you’re looking at hours each week you’re wasting on conversations that aren’t helping your numbers whatsoever. (In fact, they’re a whole lot more likely to be hurting them, but we’ll get back to that in a minute).
Regardless of how passionate you are about your profession, doing hours of extra work every week for no reason whatsoever is going to take its toll, especially since these conversations are going to start feeling tedious. Pretty soon you’re going to be looking at your phone the way you look at the three-day-old leftovers in the fridge.
The second major issue with having rambling conversations is that they’re conversion rate kryptonite. Planswell legend Ermos Erotocritou has seen his fair share of advisors lose sales they’d just made on the very same call because they didn’t know when to stop talking: “advisors who ramble on after they’ve already made a sale tend to talk prospects out of booking the meeting they just agreed to book.”
This is why having a clear goal for your conversation in mind is so important. If you’re calling prospects to fill seats in an upcoming seminar, as soon as they agree to attend, end the conversation (politely, of course). This way, you won’t accidentally say something that rubs your prospect the wrong way or makes them think twice about spending an hour with you at lunch.
If you know where your conversations should end, starting them is going to be a lot less of a psychological burden. You’ll also find that you have the time to make more calls in a day, and they will be more successful overall, which will reinforce your enthusiasm for getting back on the phone for the next one.
3. Research your prospect in advance
If you’re planning and executing the same exact conversation with every single one of your prospects, you may as well be sending an email. The whole point of calling prospects in the first place is to be able to build rapport and develop connections with them that simply aren’t possible when not communicating in real time.
But if you’re going to treat all of your prospects to the same conversation (which, if you’re using the same template every time, is unlikely to be genuine or fresh), you’re basically shooting yourself in the foot as far as authentic human connection is concerned.
Spend time on the front end to do some research on the prospect: what are their goals, both short and long term? Do they have or plan to have children? Are they in the market to purchase a home?
If you don’t have access to personal information like this, start with what you can: AUM, annual income, family size, etc. Then, make some educated guesses about what their goals might be. Given what you know, when might they be hoping to retire? Might they want to be saving money for vacations? Could they purchase a home with their income?
(Side plug: Planswell partners get all of this information and more delivered to them on a silver platter — it’s just one of the many reasons becoming a partner makes so much sense.)
Make a plan to ask about these things on your call, and be ready to offer suggestions for how to make it happen for them.
Having an individualized roadmap like this for each of your conversations will not only improve their effectiveness (because your prospects will feel like you’ve taken the time to get to know them — because you have), but also make it easier for you to get on the next call — it’s a whole lot easier to start a journey if you have your destination in mind and know which route you’re going to take to get there.
4. Role play to prepare
If you have anxiety about talking to a person in real time without sounding like you’re reading off of a script, there’s a simple solution: practice! If high schoolers can perform a Shakespearen script in front of hundreds of their peers without falling to pieces, you can get to the point where you feel comfortable enough with your “lines” to use them in genuine conversations with prospects.
Practicing can even be fun: buy a friend a beer (or lunch) in exchange for letting you practice your pitch with them. They’ll be able to give you feedback as well about how the conversation felt, and what you could do to be more comfortable when it comes time to do it for real.
If you don’t have any friends (or can’t afford to bribe the ones you do have) simply running your “lines” in front of a mirror is a perfectly suitable means of practicing. The whole point is that the more you run through the trajectory of a conversation, the less nervous you’ll feel about hopping on the phone and doing it for real, so even if you have to do it alone, it will still be helpful. You could even record yourself doing this and listen back to hear how you’ll sound, which is a decent replacement for peer feedback.
Want to hear the best part? Having real conversations with prospects counts for practicing as well. Once you feel comfortable enough to get on the phone, it will only get easier each time you do it.
Some things to keep in mind
Creating a plan and practicing it are all well and good, but there are a couple more concepts worth keeping in mind to help make that phone feel lighter each time you pick it up:
- It’s okay to be nervous: even professional actors get the jitters before a show, and that’s totally fine. What you want to avoid is having those jitters show through when you actually get on the phone. Acknowledging your nervousness is the first step to defeating it, and there are plenty of strategies you can use to help manage anxiety before a call (meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga are just a few).
- Failure isn’t actually failure: here’s a true fact — it simply isn’t possible to hop on the phone and convert 100% of your calls into meetings, or email addresses, or seminar seats. Everyone is bound to fail at some point, and that’s perfectly okay (in fact, it might just be critical to your success). If you approach every call as a do-or-die situation, you’re going to feel stressed and sound stressed and your calls are not only going to be a lot harder to make, but you will not be nearly as successful as you could be.
- Try and have fun: as much as sounding nervous and stressed out will harm your ability to build genuine relationships and therefore have successful calls with your prospects, if you’re able to authentically enjoy the experience of conversing with potential clients, they’re going to feel a whole lot more comfortable talking to you and be much more likely to want to work with you going forward. The added bonus is that if you can make calling fun, you’ll want to do it!
These four action steps will help you get over call reluctance so you can make more (and more successful) calls without the nerves and anxiety that precede them:
- Assess the situation: determining what’s stopping you from picking up the phone is an important first step to being able to move forward.
- Have a clear objective in mind: whether you’re calling to get someone on an email list, book a seminar, or schedule a consultation, knowing why you’re calling and keeping that at the forefront of your mind is crucial. Conversations that don’t end when they should tend to result in lost opportunities.
- Research your prospect beforehand: before you pick up the phone, take the time to get to know your prospect — what are their short- and long-term goals? When do they want to retire? Do they have a family? Are they in the market to purchase a home? Use this information to plan a call that’s unique to them. Not only will it help you feel more prepared for the call, but it will make them feel special because you’ve taken the time to get to know them.
- Role play to prepare: if saying words out loud on the phone still sends you into epileptic fits of terror, practice! The more you run through your “lines,” the more comfortable you’ll be saying them on a “real” call (or simply dialing the number, for that matter). We recommend getting a friend to play your prospect so they can give you feedback, but even practicing in front of a mirror will help.